Most of earth’s inhabitants throughout its history have believe in the Creator. Today 95% of the globe’s population believe this. Most of these believe the Creator created all the visible, physical universe. Many also believe there is an invisible realm created by God and that this includes what are called angels or spirits.
Among all these “angels” [ = messengers], or “sons of God,” [Job 38:6] the Bible identifies someone unique and premier to all others save God Himself. This spiritual being is called “the Son of God” and is described by the beloved apostle John as “the only begotten god” who acts as a Word, or Spokesman, for the invisible God. [John 1:18] As a “son” such a being could not have always existed. He would have to come into existence and some point in the past. That is, he would have been “created” or “produced” by God before the calling into being all other things. For over two thousand years Proverbs 8:22-31 has been viewed by Christian scholars and lovers of His Word as a reference to the creation of this unique and particular “son of God.” Let us review this amazing text. It begins …
Proverbs 8:22, “Yehowah created me [the] beginning of His way, before His ancient works.” [These verses are taken from the 21st Century Paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures [NCMM] of Proverbs as part of Nazarene Commentary 2000©.]
The King James Version of this verses uses “possessed me” instead of “created me.” The Hebrew is QA-NA’NI [ = produced me; Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 7069, erect, create ]. The Greek EKTISEN ME means “created me.” And, the Latin is POSSESDIT ME meaning “possessed me.” It is clear the KJV and others have followed Jerome’s 4th Century Latin Vulgate. Other versions use:
In Proverbs the attribute of Wisdom is personified n several places and show to speak or cry out. Such “wisdom” had a “beginning” when it was created. Thus, such Wisdom did not always exist. For this reason this Wisdom could not be specifically describing God’s own inherent wisdom which has always existed.
The 3rd Century BC Jewish Septuagint version [LXX] uses ARCHEN for “beginning” just as John 1:1 does. Genesis 1:1 [LXX] also uses ARCHE [“in the beginning”]. Revelation 3:14 has the Glorified Christ calling himself, ARCHE TES KTISEOS TOU THEOU [ = the beginning of the creation of the God ] a virtual allusion to Proverbs 8:22.
The whole phrase,
“Yehowah created me [the] beginning of His way,”
is rendered by others:
It is clear that versions are biased by their theology sometimes and those who hold the Son, as Wisdom, always existed, tend to obscure what the original languages actually say.
Paul taught, “Christ ... the Wisdom of God,” and, “hidden in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom [Greek = sophias].” (1 Corinthians 1:24; 2:7; Colossians 2:3) It is hard to believe Paul could write this under inspiration and not echo Proverbs 8:22 where such Wisdom is mentioned to have existed with God before the creation of everything else. Is it fair to state this proves “Wisdom” was the first thing created? It also seems fair to conclude there can be only two meanings:
We believe the first is ludicrous and thus the second is the most viable.
In Proverbs 8:12 the word for Wisdom is sophia (feminine) and this is the same word Paul used in the texts above, all feminine. Interestingly, some of these same words are used in describing that “Anointed Cherub who was in Eden.” Note Ezekiel 28:13-15,
“Thou wast in the delight of the paradise of The God. ... from the day thou was created [= ekisthes] thou wast with the cherub. ... Thou wast faultless in thy days that thou was created [= ekisthes] until iniquity was found in thee.” (LXX Bagsters)
The same word, created, used in Proverbs 8:22 is used (ekisthes) of the Devil.
Another word related to this in Proverbs and Ezekiel is that found at Colossians 1:15 where Christ is called, “the firstborn of all creation [= ktiseos].” And, again the beloved John uses the word at Revelation 3:14, “the beginning of the creation [= ktiseos] of The God.” These later texts are in complete agreement with Proverbs 8:22, that “Christ [as the] ... the Wisdom of God” was created as the very first or beginning of God’s works.
Willis B. Shotwell in The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr concludes: “The language here is such that it cannot be argued that Justin considered the Logos to be eternal. The most that can be said about the Logos is that he was created before anything else.” [London 1965]
Some think Paul’s language in Colossians 1:15 may have been borrowed from a Jewish contemporary, the Hebrew philosopher Philo Judaea. Philo writes in On the Confusion of the Tongues: “God’s firstborn, the Logos, who holds the eldership among the angels, an archangel as it were.”
Lightfoot writes that The Shepherd of Hermas “is entitled in the most ancient notices.” Some give the work an early date around the year 80, others place in the middle of the Second Century. The verses most often referenced by Trinitarians in this work are those in Similtude 9, chapter 12 (Lightfoot, page 229): “The Son of God is older than all His [God’s - editor] creation, so that He became the Father’s adviser in His creation. Therefore also He is ancient.” We note Hermas says of the Son he was “adviser” and “is ancient” not eternal. This term “adviser” may be drawn from Proverbs 8:22, 30 which reads in the Jewish Tanakh: “The LORD created me at the beginning of His course, as the first of His works of old. ... I was with Him as a confident.”
Chapter CXXIX of Dialogue with Trypho has Justin Martyr quoting Proverbs 8:22 and applies the Wisdom to the Christ: “The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works. ... He begets me before all the hills.” He adds: “You perceive, my hearers, if you bestow attention, that the Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit.”
We are dealing first with Hebrew poetry loaded with metaphors and analogies. We note shifts in first person to third person. We note Prudence does not speak, only SOPHIA. What are the possibilities? First, how did the earliest Christian scholars of the 1st and 2nd centuries view the verse? Second, are there strong parallels between Proverbs 8:22 SOPHIA and the Son, or the Logos? Note how SOPHIA is compared to Christ:
Ignatius writes to the Magnesians: “There is one God who manifested himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word which proceeded from silence and in every respect pleased him [God] who sent him.” [chp. 8] “Be ye subject to the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh.” [chp. 13] Regarding the Spirit he says in his letter to the Ephesians (chp. 9): “The Holy Spirit does not speak His own things, but those of Christ, … even as the Lord also announced to us the things that He received from the Father. For, says He [the Son], ‘the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father's, who sent Me.’ ”
THE FORMATION OF CHRISTIAN DOGMA (Professor Martin Werner, Bern) states: “The earliest Church authors, however, did not apparently take over their Logos doctrine from Gnosticism. (page 225) ... Thus in the great Gnostic systems, as later in Neoplatonism, the Nous held the place within the Church in its doctrine assigned to the Logos. ... Sometimes Philo is clearly the source of inspiration, sometimes Proverbs 8:22 ff., sometimes it is a question of an attempt at a compromise between this key passage [Proverbs 8:22] of the Old Testament and John i, I. (226) ... With Justin and Irenaeus the process of de-eschatologising the Primitive Christian conception of Christ, assisted by the Logos doctrine, was able even to achieve the transformation of the apocalyptic Christ into the Platonic World-Soul.” (228)
Page 574 of Eusebius’ Preparation of the Gospel says, “And Solomon, David’s son and successor, presenting the same thought by a different name, instead of the ‘Word’ called Him Wisdom ... ‘The LORD formed me as the beginning of His ways ... When He was preparing the heaven, I was beside Him.’ [Proverbs 8:22ff]”
Page 575 of the same work quotes Philo Iudaeus in his On the Confusion of Tongues: “For it becomes those who have made companionship with knowledge to desire to behold the true Being, but should they be unable, then at least to behold His image, the most holy Word. ... But even if one be not as yet worthy to be called the son of God, let him strive earnestly to be adorned after the likeness of His first-begotten Word, who is the eldest of the Angels, and as an Archangel, has many names. ... For the Universal Father made Him rise as His eldest Son, whom elsewhere He named ‘First-begotten.’”
Proverbs 8:23, “I was established from times unknown, at the beginning, before He made the earth.”
If the Bible taught the Son had always existed then Proverbs 8:22, 23 goes about explaining that in a contradictory manner. Wisdom describes its creation as
“Before His ancient works.”
[For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on John 1:1, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:1-3, and Revelation 3:14.]
“I was established from times unknown at the beginning:”
One can see the bias of some trinitarian renderings. The Hebrew is OWLAM [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 5769, concealed, vanishing point, out of mind] NACACH [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 5258, pour, cast, set up]. The Hebrew OWLAM, like the Greek AIONOS [LXX], may mean everlasting depending on the context; or, a period of unknown length, that is, an indefinite period of time.. Since the phrase OWLAM NACACH is paralleled with “at the beginning” it cannot mean “eternal” or “everlasting.”
The parallels that follow deal with the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis 1:1. “Wisdom” was “created” and therefore had a “beginning.” The Greek LXX has the phrase PRO TOU AIONOS, which is literally “before the ages.” Judging from what follows it refers to that time period BEFORE the creation of heaven and earth. John 1:1 echoes the whole idea.
Wisdom makes it clear that its creation was “before He made the earth.” [Or, created.] Yehowah is clearly the Creator and Wisdom is in His presence. If “wisdom” was created or had a beginning, then it means there was a time Yehowah lacked such wisdom. Paul echoes Proverbs 8:22 by referring to Christ as “the Wisdom of the God.” [1 Corinthians 1:24] John writes, “The Word existed in the beginning,” which is later associated with the cosmos, world, or humankind. [John 1:3, 10]
Proverbs 8:24-29, “I was brought forth before He made the watery abyss – before there were any fountains gushing with water. [Yehowah] begot me before the mountains settled down, before the hills. I was in His presence when He prepared the Celestialum – before He had yet made the earth and the uninhabited lands of vegetation – before even the dust particles of the cosmos. [I was in His presence] when he prepared the Celestialum, and when He marked out the depths as a sphere. When He established the clouds above – when He made the fountains of the abyss powerful – when He commanded the Sea not to break His commandment - when He appointed earth’s foundations.”
Wisdom not only says it was “created” but also uses the parallel,
“I was brought forth.” [KJV, SPR, NWT etc.]
The Hebrew is CHUWL [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 2342, twist, whirl, bear, bring forth, be in pain] and is rendered, “I travailed” by IB. That is, Wisdom by its creation or birth experienced “birth-pangs.” The Greek LXX is GENNA ME [birthed me].
Again Wisdom emphasizes that this creation or begetting was
“before [Yehowah] made the watery abyss.”
The LXX uses ABYSSOUS as it does at Genesis 1:2 [ABYSSOU]. Wisdom is saying that it was created or born before the events of Genesis 1:1, 2.
Who were present at the creation of the earth? Job 38:7,
“When the morning stars sang together and all the divine beings [BENEH’ ELO-HIM’ = sons of God] shouted for joy.” [TAN, Hebrew Text]
The Greek text has it:
“When the stars were made, all my angels [PANTES ANGELOI MOU] praised me with a loud voice.” [BAG]
Therefore, what is said here in Proverbs could be also said of the celestial beings who God created before He created the material world. Chief of these “angels” was the Word [ = Wisdom] the “firstborn [first-created] of all creation.” Paul surely echoes this at Colossians 1:15-19.
Similar language is used of Satan in Ezekiel 28:12-16,
“You … were full of wisdom. You have been in Eden, the garden of God. … You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created.”
If this is viewed literally as applying to Satan, then it could also be said of him that he was perfect wisdom “from the day you were created” before Eden was made. The LXX [Bagster] renders the Greek: “From the day you were created you were WITH THE CHERUB [possibly meaning the Word/Wisdom].” And after sinning, “the Cherub brought you out of the stones of fire.” Thus, although all the angels, including Satan, would have also been present at the creation of the earth, there was One who was unique and premier above all these as “the only-begotten god.” [John 1:18]
Wisdom says it was created or begotten before earth’s “fountains” just as Genesis 2:6 uses the same Greek PEGAS. Wisdom was begotten “before the mountains settled down.” This parallel to the creation of Wisdom would make no sense if Wisdom had existed from eternity.
“I was in His presence.”
[Or, In His preparation of the Heavens I was there.] The Hebrew is SHAM [or, SHEM; Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 8033/34, position] and the Greek is SYMPAREMEN AUTO [I was present with Him]. Or,
Could Jesus, as Paul’s “wisdom of the God,” also say this? Jesus prays to his Father in John 17:5, 24,
“And now Father, You glorify me beside You with the glory I had beside You before the Cosmos existed. … I wish that where I am they also may be with me, so that they may behold my glory which You have given to me, because You loved me before the founding of the Cosmos.” [NCMM]
The Nazarene’s words are simple and straightforward: he pre-existed in his Father’s presence before the creation of the Cosmos [world]. [For more details on the pre-existence of Christ see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000© on John 1:1-3, 10, 30; 3:23; 6:33, 38, 51, 62. For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 search pre-existence in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Colossians 1:15, Philippians 2:5-7 and other places.]
Wisdom does not say this was from eternity but before
“The dust particles of the cosmos.”
And this is paralleled with what God did regarding the Sea or oceans. Wisdom was created or begotten, and in God’s presence,
when He “marked out of the depths as a sphere.”
Others render this:
The Hebrew is CHAQAQ [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 2710, engrave, prescribe, appoint, decree] CHUWG [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 2329, a circle, circuit, compass].
Proverbs 8:30, 31, “… then it was that I was in His presence like a master craftsman, arranging everything. And daily I was His delight and I rejoiced in His presence -rejoicing in the habitable part of the earth. And my delight was in humankind.” [NCMM]
Wisdom calls itself a “master worker” who was in God’s presence before the creation of the earth. This designation is translated in several different ways. For example:
The Hebrew is AMOWN [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 525, sense of training, skilled, architect]. Another Hebrew version carries the idea “beloved child” or “faithful disciple.” It seems clear from John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-19, and Hebrews 1:1-3 that the Son was present as a creative agent. Many believe it is the Son who is included in the “us” of Genesis 1:26.
One version of the Greek Septuagint suggests a certain reading, “arranging everything.” This is almost echoed at Hebrews 1:2, 3:
“In these last days He spoke to us [Hebrews] by means of a Son whom He appointed heir of the Universe. By means of [His Son] [The God] made the Periods of Time. [The Son] is the very ‘reflection of His glory’ [Wisdom 7:22] and the very ‘imprint of His substance’. [Wisdom 7:22] [The Son] upholds the Universe by his powerful word. After [the Son] made a cleansing of the sins, he ‘sat down at the right hand of’ [Psalm 110:1] the Majesty in exalted places.” [NCMM]
These words prove most interesting because Paul echoes or alludes to phrases used in Wisdom 7:22 where Wisdom [SOPHIA] is being described. Thus, we have a strong suggestion that the Wisdom [SOPHIA] of Proverbs 8:22 is the same as that “Son” Paul describes here in Hebrews 1:2, 3.
Wisdom states that in God’s presence before and during earthly creation,
“Daily I was His delight.”
May these be the creative days?
Wisdom says that God was delighted daily. We also take great delight in Wisdom Personified in Jesus Christ the Nazarene, now returned to the right hand of his Father. Proverbs 8:31 says that Jesus - “the wisdom of God” - took particularly delight himself in humankind. We rejoice to know that not only was our Lord involved in our creation, but also he is fond of humanity in general. We rejoice to be that part of humankind that have come to believe “Yehowah created [Jesus] the beginning of His works.”
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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